Lobbying Sacramento support, Kevin Johnson offers few details on All-Star meetings with NBA brass

Isaiah Thomas greets one of his many basketball mentors, Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson. (Photo: Steven Chea)

HOUSTON – Since arriving in Texas on Friday, Kevin Johnson hadn’t spoke about his efforts to lobby support for Sacramento’s bid to keep the Kings.  This evening, the mayor’s silence was broken when he addressed a crowd of reporters from the Toyota Center at NBA All-Star Saturday Night.  Here are the highlights, followed by audio of all of the mayor’s comments.

  • The mayor thinks the capital city has a “competitive advantage” over Seattle when it comes to the readiness of an arena plan.  As he’s told Sacramento media over the last month, the city has a deal that’s already been vetted and agreed to by the league and potential arena operator AEG.  “We have a deal that was approved by the NBA already, where a city has a significant public investment that we’re willing to put forward to build a brand new arena.  And that’s a key reason why unfortunately a team left Seattle and why teams do leave is you can’t get arena deals done.  In Sacramento, we’re doing something unprecedented – one of the largest public investment, if not the largest public investment for an arena.  And to be able to do it in California is very difficult to do.  So I’m proud of kind of everybody who worked toward that end.”
  • Johnson, who landed in Texas yesterday, has reportedly spent the last two days updating NBA brass on Sacramento’s plan to save its only major pro sports team. He didn’t offer too many details about the closed-door meetings to the media.  “I’m out here on business and we know that.  And it’s to lobby and share our story.  And I know it’s compelling.  And I know a lot of people are rooting and feel excited about our efforts in Sacramento and I’m going to do it every chance I get.  And I tell you, it doesn’t matter if I’m in a hotel, I’m in an elevator or I’m walking over here and going out to a bite to eat, there’s people that are affiliated with the NBA and those who aren’t, who are watching what’s going on.  This is All-Star Weekend.  There’s a lot of big stories, but I will tell you Sacramento is one of them.”
  • Johnson is approaching his efforts in Houston as a free-for-all.  He’s been given no rules or guidelines on how he can lobby support for Sacramento this weekend.  His plan is to continue to stress the capital city’s strengths, much like he did before the Board of Governors when the Kings nearly moved to Anaheim in 2011. “Again, I was there two years ago.  So it’s not something that they haven’t heard before when we talk about our market.  You’re talking about fans, you’re talking about attendance, you’re talking about a top 20 TV market.  You’re talking about – one team, city and market – we epitomize, I think, what the best of a one-team market is and the NBA has a hundred percent of that market share.  And it’s just hard for me to believe that if we do our part and if we do those three things, that we won’t be able to retain our team.”
  • David Stern said a few days earlier and in his final All-Star Weekend state of the league address that he has no plans to meet with Johnson.  The mayor confirmed that to be true, but he’s hoping to find some way to cross paths with the NBA commissioner.  “I have not met with the commissioner.  And I don’t think I’ll meet them now.  I’ll do my best to run into them somehow, (maybe) be in the path that he’s walking.”
  • Though the league’s 29 other owners are currently restricted in the comments they make about the Sacramento/Seattle saga, Johnson thinks the black-eye of relocating a team will weigh heavy on their decision.  “No owner wants to move a team from one city to another.  That’s just not the strength of the NBA.  That’s not the stability of this market and this association and what it’s done.  You don’t want to do that.  And every time it occurs, it’s a travesty to the league, and they would say that.  And one of the key reasons why teams moved often is a local community or city, that market doesn’t support the team or they can’t deliver on a new stadium or a new arena.  That’s not our case.”

LISTEN: Johnson’s comments from All-Star Saturday Night

Can’t see the audio player? Listen here.

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About: Jonathan Santiago

Jonathan Santiago serves Cowbell Kingdom as senior editor specializing in writing, podcasting and video production. He also handles the majority of CK’s day-to-day beat coverage of the Kings.